Advice & Examples

Ideas in Event Planning

Here are some thoughts we often share with Yale Club leaders who are looking for new ideas in planning Club events. In some cases we’ve listed examples of what other Clubs have done that illustrate a certain type of event.


Why organize events at all?

Many Yale Clubs seem to think that their primary reason for existence is to organize events. They tend to measure their success by how many events they can do every year, and how many people attend.

Certainly a broad range of well-attended events will always be evidence of a healthy Yale Club. But remember that an event should be a means to an end, not the end in itself. The primary goal of any well-planned event should be to reconnect the members of your local Yale family — to each other, to your community, and/or back to Yale.

A secondary goal in planning a Yale Club event is to cultivate fresh blood in Club leadership. The qualities of ability and enthusiasm in organizing a good event can be strong indicators that someone should be considered for a future leadership position in your Club.


Do you know who you are?

If you haven’t done a self-study in awhile, now would be a good time to do so. Your Club’s roster can provide a wealth of demographic information, helping you decide where you should focus your energies. Periodically survey your membership as well as compare your constituency with other local alumni associations and neighboring Yale Clubs. Track attendance and create opportunities for feedback. Consider having open planning meetings. Click here to see sample surveys.


Reinventing the wheel

It’s far too easy to burn yourself out thinking of new ideas all the time. Tag onto existing events such as local art and theater festivals, museum exhibitions and public lectures. Build in an educational component to the event such as a private tour or talk. Make a habit of checking community and university calendars. Periodically ask your board and constituency for ideas, and learn what organizations they may be a part of…i.e. World Affairs Council.

  • Yale Club of New York City: New York Cares Spring Clean-Up Day
  • Yale Club of New Haven: New Haven International Festival of Arts and Ideas
  • Yale Club of London: Henley Royal Regatta


How did you get that venue?!

Restaurants, bars, hotels and private clubs are fine places to hold events, but there are many other venue options out there. Try to find venues that are unusual and often overlooked. What's new and interesting? What's old but unknown? Where are people dying to get into? Is there a Yale connection? Hidden treasurers are all around you.

You don't have to use expensive venues, either. Don’t overlook local businesses with interesting auditoriums and reception spaces, area schools and universities, libraries, nonprofit organizations, parks, houses of worship, community and cultural centers, art studios and galleries, laboratories, historic homes and sites, etc. One Yale club held an event on a decommissioned battleship and another at a historic cemetery. Look into after-hours opportunities too.


Talented is as talented does

While Yale University speakers are excellent, don’t overlook local Yale talent. Review your club roster, especially the career/industry information, for speakers and event ideas. Talk with neighboring Yale clubs about their constituencies-perhaps an alumnus would be willing to travel to your club and give a presentation. Consider inviting local alumni professors and graduate students to discuss their current research.

  • Yale Club of Southern California: Yale in Hollywood Entertainment Panel


In your own backyard

Volunteer work is not only rewarding but also a wonderful way to bring alumni together. Many Yale Clubs participate in community service projects: literacy programs, Adopt-A-School, Habitat-for-Humanity, blood drives, soup kitchens, conservation projects (cleaning a local park), etc. Make it interesting by challenging other alumni associations to compete for the greater number of volunteers or volunteer hours.

  • Yale Club of Houston: Adoption and fundraising for Youth Engaged in Service
  • (YES) College Preparatory School
  • Yale Club of Dallas: Volunteer competition with Harvard Club of Dallas at City Park Elementary School
  • San Antonio Yale/Harvard blood drive
  • Yale Club of Southern California Habitat for Humanity Day


The Big Event

For Clubs with larger memberships, a large, formal event is an exciting way to bring alumni together. Though labor intensive, a dinner dance, live or silent auction, all day seminar or scholarship fundraising extravaganza, can be a huge success, attracting alumni from across the generations. We recommend holding events such as these every few years to keep attendance high and volunteers from burning out.

  • Cleveland Yale Ball (held every 5 years)
  • Yale California Alumni Gala
  • Annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton Ball in Rochester, NY
  • Yale Alumni Association of Westchester Annual Scholarship Banquet
  • Yale Club of Singapore: Distinguished University Alumni League Charity Ball
  • Yale Club of New Haven Charity Ball (proceeds benefiting Dwight Hall)


Life of the mind

You can’t go wrong with continuing education. Successful activities include book clubs — especially with alumni and Yale faculty authors — discussion groups, panels, faculty forums (informal mini classes with readings and final lecture with instructor), and speakers (Yale as well as local). Contact local bookstores for book tour schedules. Consider an informal “Masters Tea” on a Sunday or a dessert discussion group. Other ideas include potlucks or breakfasts with book groups or local speakers as well as lecture series (“Hot coffee, hot topics” or “Lunch with a View”).

  • Yale Alumni Association of the Northwest (Minnesota) Alumnae Discussion Group with Radcliffe Alumnae
  • Yale Club of Orange County Book Club
  • Yale Club of Oregon monthly speaker luncheons
  • Yale Club of Philadelphia discussion groups
  • Yale Club of San Francisco CAFÉ, featuring prominent local speakers
  • Yale Club of Southern California literary salon
  • Colorado Yale Association Faculty Forum


A little culture never hurt anyone

There are bound to be wonderful Yale connections with your local arts community-board members, directors, curators, actors, artists and gallery owners, writers, musicians, etc.-alumni who can help you organize a splendid event around a performance or exhibition. Ideas include a program of readings from Yale authors, film series, tours of local artists' studios or an evening of music showcasing local talent whether professional or amateur.

  • Yale Singers of Maine
  • Yale Club of Philadelphia Theater Night, featuring local alumni director
  • Yale Club of Washington, D.C. Singing Jamboree
  • Yale Club of San Francisco tour of alumni studios and galleries
  • Yale Club of San Diego: Yale Alums on Stage - premiere of two plays written by alumni


The Great Outdoors

Consider a hike or snow shoeing/skiing trip, nature walk with a botanist or geologist, hilltop lecture on local environmental issues, stargazing out in the open or at a local observatory, and conservation projects such as maintenance work at a local state park.

  • Colorado Yale Association annual hut-to-hut ski trip
  • Yale Club of San Franciso: Eli Hiking Group
  • Yale Club of Southern Arizona (Tucson): overnight trip to Mt. Graham International Observatory


Bulldog, bulldog, bow wow wow

Though the Yale-Harvard Game telecast is always a draw, consider outings at local sports games, especially if there is a Yale connection to the team, perhaps someone who can give a behind-the-scenes tour. Some clubs have also organized "Ivy Challenges," informal athletic events such as races, mini-regattas, and golf and tennis tournaments.

  • Yale Club of Washington, D.C. Ivy Tennis Party
  • Yale Club of Tampa Day at the Races
  • Yale Club of New Haven Raven's Baseball Night


Boy, those Yale students seem to get younger every year...

Alumni love interacting with current students and performance groups and visiting athletic teams are a great way to bring the two together. Make an effort to keep in touch with current students. (Remember, today's student is tomorrow's club volunteer.) Consider sponsoring an AYA Community Service Summer Fellowship and encourage alumni to sponsor Externships. And don't forget Yale parents!

  • Yale Club of Houston Current Student Panel (summer)
  • Yale Club of Phoenix evening with Yale Exit Players (student comedy troupe)


The Young and the Restless

If you have young alumni, you need to organize events specifically for them (defined usually as 10 years out and younger). Ideas range from social events and athletic/outdoor activities to networking and mentoring opportunities. Consider reviving some Yale student traditions such as Feb Club. Appoint a Young Alumni Coordinator, and make sure that he or she is a member of your board.

  • Yale Club of Southern California Young Alumni Happy Hour


Fun for the whole family

Busy families, especially young families, are too often the lost demographic. Bring them back into the fold with family centered activities. Some clubs have even developed a self-sustaining "mini club" for Yalies with children, providing activities which specifically appeal to Yale parents: educational outings (children's theater, science museum), speakers on trends in medicine, education, technology as well as chilhood development issues. Also, consider providing babysitting at your largest functions such as an annual dinner or offering dinner as a separate option after your speaker so parents can leave early to be with their children.

  • Yale Club of Houston Li’l Elis Club
  • Colorado Yale Association Annual Mountain Family Outing and Barbeque
  • Yale Club of Boston Children’s Museum Outing
  • Yale Club of New York City: NY Public Library children’s performance event
  • Yale Club of Philadelphia Movie Night


Let’s make a deal

Networking events are always popular, especially with recent graduates. Some clubs have had great success organizing networking luncheons, receptions, forums, panels and/or seminars with topics ranging from current business and technology trends to the film and theater industries.

  • Yale Club of Orange County Business Roundtable Lunches
  • Yale Club of Southern California monthly networking luncheon


Ivy Plus

Many Yale Clubs/Associations, especially small clubs, periodically organize joint activities with other alumni associations, ensuring a full calendar and strong turnout for events. Some Yale clubs rotate responsibility with other alumni associations for annual speakers. Meet with other alumni association club leaders periodically to share ideas and discuss possible opportunities such as networking, volunteer and fundraising “challenges,” athletic competitions, singing groups, etc.

  • Yale Club of Chicago: Ivy League/Seven Sisters Volunteer Day
  • Yale club of Silicon Valley: Ivy League Bowling Tournament
  • Yale Club of the Suncoast (Sarasota, FL): Annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton Speaker Luncheon
  • Yale Club of the Treasure Coast (Vero Beach, FL): Annual Harvard-Yale-Princeton Dinner Dance
  • Yale Club of Austin: Ivy League Holiday Dinner and Party
  • Yale Club of San Francisco: All-Ivy/Seven Sisters Dance Party with dance lessons (latin dance steps) at local hot spot
  • Yale Club of New York: Annual All-Ivy Safety Dance - 80’s retro